When a patient with a gunshot wound or a motor vehicle accident arrives, a bed is prepped, the right supplies are on hand, and up to 20 nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians are ready to spring into action.
There is one difference: The leader of our trauma team now wears an orange vest.
The easy-to-spot garment, called the trauma team leader identification vest, clearly identifies who’s in charge. It’s a simple yet effective innovation created by a nurse after a hectic gunshot trauma simulation, in which a huddle of highly stressed emergency room staff members spoke over one another and there were no clear roles. In particular, no one knew who was leading the trauma code. The orange vest became routine part of emergency care at our hospital earlier this year, and the trauma team reports it has helped clarify who’s in charge and strengthened communication among members.
The innovation also illustrates why hospitals should support novel ideas by all members of the health care team. Health providers are good problem solvers, and because they work in the hospital and other health care settings are uniquely positioned to come up with fresh solutions to health care problems.
In recent years, a growing number of health care workers have been stepping up to create innovations by applying “design thinking” – a human-centered approach to innovation that was originally developed in the business world to create new products. Traditionally, hospitals were designed with input from administrators. With design thinking, the innovations come from those who actually work there, providing feedback to designers to improve the final product.
Health care workers may also invite patients to the health innovation table. At U-M, IHPI member Dr. Joyce Lee, a designer turned physician, is a co-leader of an interdisciplinary collaborative called Health Design By Us. The group supported a patient-designed mobile system for diabetes management that grew out of the work of one young patient’s father who was looking for easier ways to monitor and report his child’s glucose levels. The system, called Nightscout, attaches to the patient’s glucose monitor and transmits digital readings to the cloud, where they can be easily accessed through a phone, tablet or smartwatch to ultimately guide clinical decisions in real time.